The national conversation surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit or kneel during the playing of the national anthem as a form of silent protest is still rolling on. The latest place the much-debated issue cropped up was at Team USA's training camp for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
With the U.S. in Columbus, Ohio, ahead of the tournament this week, with NHL players representing their country, the Kaepernick question has been a common one. Many of the players who have gone on record have looked to avoid controversy. Some who addressed Kaepernick's decision talked their way around the issue while expressing their own respect for the flag and the anthem.
The U.S. squad is led by John Tortorella, a man who only bites his tongue when it comes to strategy on the ice. And the Columbus Blue Jackets coach, who also spent time with the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks, had some thoughts about what would happen if any of his players sat in a similar form of protest.
"If any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will sit there the rest of the game," Tortorella told Linda Cohn of ESPN.
Tortorella has talked a lot about the importance of his players representing their country well since camp opened. He also has felt his bond to the U.S. tighten through his son's military service. Tortorella's son, Nick, is an Army Ranger and is currently deployed. Tortorella will also have a Ranger on Team USA's bench during Friday's exhibition game against Canada in Columbus.
"I know these are hockey games ... but I do look at it like it's for my country," Tortorella told the Columbus Dispatch on the opening day of camp. "What Nick is doing by far dwarfs what we do. We're entertainers; we're playing a sport.
"But with my son over there -- this might sound selfish -- I want to team up with him and help my country. I get pretty caught up in representing my country. There's nothing like it."
While that may give a little more context as to Tortorella's stance on this particular issue, there's also a good chance the scenario Tortorella addressed won't happen anyway.
It won't be because players may or may not have desires to express certain feelings or concerns, but because of the lack of opportunity. The anthem protocol for this tournament is going to be different than that of an NHL game.
Typically, in most international events for hockey, neither country's anthem is played before the game as it would be in a traditional NHL setting. It has been customary for the national anthem of the winning team to be played after the game, regardless of if it is in the preliminary round or in the final.
However, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, at least back in March, the plan for the World Cup of Hockey was for an anthem only to be played when something has been won from a tournament perspective. In that scenario, there's a chance the Star-Spangled Banner never even plays during the tournament, and if it is, it will be after the tournament has been completed.
The U.S., however, does have three exhibition games leading up to the tournament. It is unclear which anthem protocol will be followed. If the situation never arises for the World Cup, now the Columbus Blue Jackets -- a team that, like a lot of NHL teams, features many non-American players -- know where their coach stands on this issue.
There's no doubt that when the anthem is played in any sporting event going forward for now, more eyes will be drawn to the players to see what they are doing.